I recently read the doctoral thesis of a young European woman on the subject of “Fashion in the Age of Modernity
.” One of the themes that came through strongly was the connection between fashion and status or affluence.
Your appearance announces the outcome other people can expect from you. Fashion is a powerful form of non-verbal communication that conveys more information than words can ever convey. Besides, words can be false or an exaggeration. Like body language, image gives powerful information that is extremely useful.
For example, which of the two young men in Photo A (see gallery above) has the highest status in an office? Unfortunately, the “fashion” look the man on the right wears, carries little weight in terms of status. Dark shirts with matching ties may be in fashion, but they will not give you a high-status look. Dark shirts are too reminiscent of the Al Capone look. White shirts, on the other hand, are very formal and professional in nature; they suggest you are either a top executive or deal with top executives.
Dark suits also lend higher credibility and power to a man. Light-colored suits are acceptable in the Deep South, but when working globally, a dark suit will give you more stature. Your tie is also an important tool for increasing status. In general, stripes and small repeating patterns look highly professional, while abstract patterns and floral prints look less authoritative.
Which of the young women in Photo B (see gallery above) looks the most important and successful? Chances are, you did not choose the young woman in the middle photo. She wears no accessories and no makeup, both indicators of status and authority. The woman in Photo B, left, has a more finished and professional than the woman to her right because of the necklace she wears. She would look more authoritative with earrings. One “accessory” that young professional women overlook is lipstick. Like other accessories, it also signals that you have more authority and credibility than your peers (Photo B, far right). Accessories not only increase status, they enable a youthful-looking woman to appear more worldly, experienced and credible. With the addition of either earrings or a power necklace, the woman in the photo to the right would probably have won your vote in terms of status.
Kevin Hogan, PhD., in his book “The Science of Influence
” says that our brains instantly judge people within a group as either high status or low status. He notes that both humans and animals are wired to be attracted to the more higher-status individuals in any given group.
When it comes to image, the devil is in the details. Don’t let your image down by being oblivious to the signals you are sending.
Sandy Dumont is an image consultant and author of several eBooks on the subject of image. She also speaks to audiences here and abroad about the power of image skills. Visit her website for more image tips and a free book: www.theimagearchitect.com